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PrEP detentions during first quarter exceeds total in 2018

Detention figures for illegally supplied HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) upon entry to Ireland have exceeded 2018’s figures in the first quarter of this year alone.

Throughout all of 2018, there were seven separate detentions of PrEP tablets upon entry into Ireland. These detentions comprised of 660 tablets, according to figures released to the Medical Independent (MI) by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). A spokesperson for the HPRA told MI that the tablets detained were found to be tenofovir disoproxil, and the generic products Tenvir-EM (tenofovir and emtricitabine), manufactured by Cipla, and Ricovir-EM (tenofovir and emtricitabine), manufactured by Mylan.

The first quarter of this year alone has seen more PrEP tablets detained than throughout all of 2018. Between January 1 and March 31, some 840 PrEP tablets were detained upon entry into Ireland, spanning nine separate detentions, according to the HPRA. The tablets were identified by the HPRA as tenofovir disoproxil, tenofovir and emtricitabine and Tenvir-EM.

The spokesperson said that when recording a detention of illegally supplied medication, “while the active ingredient(s) in a product are recorded in all instances, it can be the case that, on occasion, the actual brand name is not”.

They added there was no obvious explanation for the variance between the 2018 and 2019 figures.

PrEP is currently available in Ireland legally with a doctor’s prescription. A month’s supply of branded Truvada tablets costs around €400.

As of December 2017, generic versions are available in Ireland which cost around €85-€100 per month. This is not covered by the Drugs Payment Scheme and must be paid in full by those purchasing the medication. More affordable versions of generic PrEP tablets can be bought online, but obtaining prescription medicine without a prescription is a criminal offence in Ireland. 

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that a PrEP programme will be rolled out in Ireland before the end of 2019 in an effort to reduce the number of HIV diagnoses in the country.

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